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Early embryonic development, implantation and maintenance of a pregnancy are critically dependent on an intact embryo-maternal communication. So far, only few signals involved in this dialogue have been identified. In bovine and other ruminants, interferon tau is the predominant embryonic pregnancy recognition signal, exhibiting antiluteolytic activity. However, this is just one aspect of the complex process of embryo-maternal signalling, and a number of other systems are more likely to be involved. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of these important mechanisms, integrated projects involving specialists in embryology, reproductive biotechnology and functional genome research are necessary to perform a systematic analysis of interactions between pre-implantation stage embryos and oviduct or uterine epithelial cells, respectively. State-of-the-art transcriptomic and proteomic technologies will identify reciprocal signals between embryos and their maternal environment and the respective downstream reaction cascades. For in vivo studies, the use of monozygotic twins as recipient animals provides elegant model systems, thus eliminating genetic variability as a cause of differential gene expression. In addition, suitable systems for the co-culture of oviduct epithelial or endometrium cells with the respective embryonic stages need to be established for functional validation of candidate genes potentially involved in the dialogue between embryos and their maternal environment. The knowledge of these mechanisms should help to increase the pregnancy rate following embryo transfer and to avoid embryonic losses. Candidate genes involved in embryo-maternal communication will also be used to define new quality criteria for the selection of embryos for transfer to recipients. Another application is the supplementation of embryotrophic factors or components of embryo-maternal signalling in optimized formulations, such as bioartificial matrices. As a long-term goal, signalling mechanisms identified in bovine will also be functionally evaluated in other species, including the human.